very much earlier than at the grand ball of the evening before. Mr. Worthivale and Beavis were there, as a matter of course, and all the Ducal family appeared. His Grace remained in the ball-room longer than on the former occasion, talking to the young farmers’ sons and daughters, showing that he knew them all by name, took an interest in their welfare, and was delighted to have them about him enjoying themselves. He was obstinate on this evening, he would not go when his daughter thought advisable.
‘No, dear,’ he said, ‘it refreshes me to see all their happy faces. How hearty they are; how well they behave; they are so courteous and kindly! I do like our English peasantry; there is a gentility of feeling about them I meet with nowhere else—good hearts and clear heads.’
The Duke knew nearly everyone. He had the happy faculty of never forgetting a face, and of remembering the circumstances of every family. He had the tact of enquiring after absent members, by name, with such real or well-simulated interest, as to gratify those he addressed, and convince them of his sincerity and friendship.
‘What! Mrs. Prowse! You here? This is an unexpected pleasure. How many years ago was it that you were pretty Mary Eastlake, with whom I opened the ball? The belle of Aveton Gifford.’
‘Well, your Grace, my daughter has come for her first dance, and as I’ve no other children—you’ll excuse me, your Grace—I thought I’d come with her and see her safe home.’
‘Bring her to me. If she is like you in old days, she will kill many hearts this evening.’
‘Well, Richard Palmer! I hope you have brought your voice and will favour us with a song, when the dancers give over for a moment. How is poor Jane? Is she still suffering from her spine? I was so grieved to hear of her accident—I had counted on her presence this evening.’
‘How are you, Mr. Newberry? Last time I saw you, your wife was bent on the great ash being cut down in front of the gate. It went to my heart to deny her, the tree was so fine, but I learnt a lesson; the gale of last October tore the tree to pieces and pelted your roof with the boughs.’
‘Broke the roof through and through, your Grace.’
‘That is a lesson never to deny the ladies anything; I dare say your own experience teaches you the same.’
‘How do you do, Mr. Nesbitt?’ to a schoolmaster; ‘glad